Archive for August, 2010


• Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Glyph of the word 'olomo'.


  • (v.) to walk
  • (n.) walker
  • (n.) walk
  • (adj.) walking

Olomo iu paleumi…
“Walking through the city…”

Notes: A decidedly bizarre song, but still one of Iron Maiden’s best. Here at number 8 we have…

Number 8

Iron Maiden's album Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden (1980)

So if you click that link and listen to this song, you might find yourself thinking, “Is this song about a…flasher?” If so, you would be right. It is, indeed, a song about a creepy flasher. It doesn’t seem like a very metal subject for a song, yet the song itself is a short, simple sonic attack. This is the first song on Iron Maiden’s first album, and it effectively announces them to the world.

Also, I should make it clear that when I select this song at number eight, it’s the song I’m selecting, not necessarily the performance I linked to up there. Iron Maiden’s first two albums featured their original lead singer, Paul Di’Anno, and while he’s…good, he’s no Bruce Dickinson. In 1988, Iron Maiden rerecorded the song “Prowler” with Bruce Dickinson on vocals to serve as a B-side for their single “The Evil That Men Do”, calling it “Prowler ’88”. That’s actually the first version of the song I heard, and it is incredible. They capture that hollow, street-side feel, and Bruce Dickinson’s vocals are a fivefold improvement over the original.

Speaking of the lyrics and this word, I’m not quite sure what the subject of the first line is supposed to be. The lyrics go “Walking through the city / Looking oh so pretty / I just got to find my way”. I think from context, one can assume that the subject must be some woman, but upon listening to it, I always assumed it referred to the narrator. I’ve left it without a pronoun in the Kamakawi translation, but the sentence looks naked… Perhaps that was their intent. (That is, back in 1980 they foresaw my birth and the creation of Kamakawi, and they crafted these lyrics to make their Kamakawi translation suggestive.)

The iku for olomo is the little man you see in words like hopoko with the “ground” determinative beneath him (it’s like he’s walking! :D). I think it’s a nice word for “walk” (extended, it kind of rolls along).

Speaking of conlanging, on the Conlang List we were recently talking about (for the second time in nine years!) path and manner languages (or satellite-framed and verb-framed languages). Most languages feature a bit of both, but you can basically categorize natural languages as one or the other. English, for example, is a satellite-framed language. In English, you can say things like the following:

  • I walked into the room.
  • I slumped into the room.
  • I trudged into the room.
  • I tripped into the room.
  • I fell into the room.
  • I ran into the room.

And so forth. You can do pretty much anything you want, and the thing that indicates that one entered the room is the preposition “into”. That is, it’s a satellite element that indicates motion from one thing to another, and the verb indicates the manner (how it was done). You can also do it the other way (e.g. “I entered the room running”), but it’s less English-like to do so. In Spanish, on the other hand, that’s the only way you can do it (for the most part). In Spanish, the motion must be indicated on the verb, and the manner is indicated with a gerund (if at all).

One might wonder, then, what type of a language is Kamakawi? Turns out, it’s both. However, unlike Esperanto, which is kind of a train wreck, there’s an explanation for why Kamakawi is the way it is—and this example sentence is a nice illustration.

In Kamakawi, all prepositions (save one) were originally verbs. In addition, all verbs were originally intransitive. The transitive construction one sees today is a result of a serial verb construction. So in old Kamakawi there would be something like this:

Ka hava ei ka i kolata.
/PAST eat 1SG PAST exist pineapple/
“I ate and it was the pineapple (that I ate).”

In the past, there was a kind of implicature that strung transitive clauses together (and it’s what led to the development of the subject status markers), and that led to the development of transitive verbs with the former verb i becoming an object marker. That reanalysis stopped at the level of the transitive verb, though, so the serial construction persists in ditransitive clauses.

Now let’s jump to the creation of prepositions. Originally, prepositions were simply verbs—and they still are, in fact (Ae ei ie pale, “I’m in the house”, where ae is a verb meaning “to be inside”). This meant that old Kamakawi was a verb-framed language, e.g.:

A iu ei a i puka.
/PRES go.through 1SG PRES exist door/
“I go through and it is the door (that I go through).”

Of course, you could also have what, I think, are rather standard serial constructions like the following:

A olomo ei a iu ei a i puka.
/PRES walk 1SG PRES go.through 1SG PRES exist door/
“I walk and I go through and it is the door (that I go through).”

With the development of the subject status system (and the solidification of i as an object marker), though, that could be simplified as follows:

A olomo ei e iu i puka.
/NEW.SBJ walk 1SG SAME.SBJ go.through OBJ door/
“I walk and go through the door.”

We’ll call this Middle Kamakawi. Then, though, the same reanalysis that applied to the existential verb i applied to the other locational verbs, and you get the modern phrasing:

A olomo ei iu ie puka.
/NEW.SBJ walk 1SG go.through OBJ.DEF door/
“I go through the door.”

Thus, Kamakawi adopted a satellite-framed system while retaining its initial verb-framed system, and the two coexist quite happily.

Well, that turned into a nice little mini-historical overview! Fun. Up next, one of my favorite Iron Maiden songs (just like the previous three, and the six that follow tomorrow’s).


• Friday, August 20th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'motu'.


  • (n.) face (of a human)

Neyana motu o ei ti motu o ia!
“My face is better than your face!”


Check out this picture of me and my little kitty:

Keli on the couch.

What a kitty she is! That’s one of her little kitty spots. She loves the arm of the couch. She’ll often hop up there and then slouch down so 90% of her body is leaning on me or Erin, the remaining 10% loosely affiliated with the couch arm. It doesn’t seem comfortable, but it seems to bring her great joy.

This iku is kind of odd. Looks more like an iku for “mouth” with the “ground” determinative beneath it to fill out the space. Turns out it’s “face”. Motu doesn’t even seem like a good word for “face”, but I suppose you have to go contrary to your instincts sometimes (often?) in order to get a truly unique language. You can’t simply borrow in the sound symbolism you’re familiar with, because it’ll probably come from your home language.

I’m really, really tired right now. I’m going to try to combat that by going to the gym. I think it’ll work!


• Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'iala'ala'.


  • (adv.) everywhere

Lelea, lelea iala’ala…
“Water, water everywhere…”

Notes: Nor any drop to drink: The chilling refrain from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (see the full text of the poem here). It is also the subject of the ninth best Iron Maiden song:

Number 9
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Iron Maiden's album Powerslave

Powerslave (1984)

For those who haven’t read the Coleridge poem, the song “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (almost fourteen minutes in length, by the way. To fit it onto YouTube, it had to be broken into two parts: part 1 and part 2) is a good summary. It goes something like this:

At a wedding, this strange old man stops one of three wedding guests that he might tell them a tale. He tells the guest how he used to be a mariner on a ship, and how on one particular voyage, an albatross started following them around (flying around the ship, keeping them company, etc.). The crew all loved the bird, and took it as a bird of good omen. Then one day (why, no one can say), the mariner takes it upon himself to shoot the albatross. Then the winds and the sea turn against them. The crew takes the albatross and hangs it about his neck as punishment for killing it.

Then things get weird.

The crew all die of thirst as they float adrift, but the mariner remains alive. Then he somehow is sunk down into the sea where he comes upon a host of sea phantoms, or something, and the mariner is given to understand that all creatures great and small are precious, and that he did wrong to kill the albatross. Once he understands this and repents, the albatross falls from his neck, and, after awhile, he washes ashore. Thereafter, he is fated to go around the world telling his tale, so that all will know to be kind to all creatures great and small.

Written at the end of the 18th century, this poem was (and is) kind of silly. In order for it to work, you have to throw out your inhibitions and take it at face value, going along with everything it throws at you. That’s what I like about this Iron Maiden rendition of the poem (it’s not the full poem; it’s shortened): It treats the source material quite seriously and the song itself is epic.

The song has three or four distinct movements (which you can hear if you listen to the song) that accompany the action of the poem. And in live shows, it’s even better, where they add sound effects for the creaking of the ship during the middle section and play it up wonderfully. By adding musical accompaniment, one is able to kind of get into the spirit of the story. And even at almost 14 minutes, this song is one of their most popular live pieces. That’s saying something for a modern rock concert!

Overall, it’s a great listening experience. It’s a true metal masterpiece, and worth of the number 9 spot in my personal Iron Maiden top ten.

A note on this word: There’s actually another, totally unrelated (like, not even close) word that has the exact same phonological form. In this one, the glottal stop is epenthetic (it pops up between like vowels); in the other one, it’s the intervocalic realization of h. Funny. I’ll have to do that word some day…

Oh, and one more mariner comment. I always wondered why on Earth the mariner shoots the albatross. It makes absolutely no sense; there’s just no reason for it. Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden, offers a unique interpretation at the beginning of one of their live performances when he says to the crowd, “This is not what to when a bird [defecates] on you!” It makes sense if you read up on the history (I guess it comes from a true account where a sailor shot an albatross hanging around their boat because they thought it was a bad omen [they were having unfavorable winds, etc.]. So there, even though it was cruel, it was at least motivated by some sort of human logic), but without it, it’s just some dude killing a bird. Odd, to say the least.


• Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'kulu'ume'.


  • (v.) to waste (something)
  • (n.) waste
  • (adj.) wasteful

Ape… Mata neu… Oku kulu’ume ti’a li’ia…
“So… Understand… Don’t waste your time…”

Notes: Always searching for those…what?

The Real Number 10
“Wasted Years”

Iron Maiden's single for 'Wasted Years'

Somewhere in Time (1986)

Yes indeed, at number 10 comes the Iron Maiden single “Wasted Years” from their 1986 album Somewhere in Time. If you take lyrics, melody and instrumentation all together and rank Iron Maiden songs from top to bottom, this is probably the number one most listenable song for those who are not fans of metal music. If you yourself are not a fan of metal, try giving this one a listen and see if you agree.

One of the defining characteristics of metal (aside from its distorted guitars and fast-paced guitar solos) is the way in which songs are constructed. Many metal songs are much more similar to classical pieces in structure than standard rock and pop music. With rock/pop, you generally have a verse, maybe a second verse, then a chorus, then a verse, then a chorus, then maybe an interlude, then a chorus, and that’s it. In contrast, many heavy metal songs move from one musical idea to another, often starting with one motif and never returning to it.

Despite the wonderfully intricate guitar work, “Wasted Years” is actually a rock song. (In fact, I’d say Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” are much more metal [structurally speaking] than “Wasted Years”, despite those bands not being metal bands.) It’s quite obviously a verse-chorus-verse song, and has a very radio-friendly chorus.

But, of course, rock songs aren’t bad, and this one is outstanding. Lyrically, it reminds me (of all things) of Journey’s “Faithfully” (of which I’m a big, big fan), and musically, the intro is one of their best (one of metal’s best), and the chorus seems to jump right out the radio at you.

Tune in tomorrow for this song’s polar opposite. ;)

The etymology of this word (kulu’ume) is complex. I’m also not sure how quite to explain it… Of course, I’ll have an entry (eventually) for its base word, but what does one do about the affixes…? True, they are iku in their own right, but should I have individual entries devoted to affixes? I wonder…

Ape o Helea

• Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'ape o helea'.

ape o helea

  • (n.) tear, teardrop

Nanai, oku ape o helea kuika!
“Amigos, no more tears!”

Notes: Gah! Lousy Wikipedia! I should have known something was up when I realized that August 16th was a Monday and CDs always come out on Tuesday…

So instead of listening to Iron Maiden’s new album while doing Dothraki translation today I listened to the Mars Volta. Not that that was a bad alternative—those cats are out of sight—but it wasn’t what I was hoping for.

But since I was disappointed, I will take out my vengeance on this blog. Here’s the tenth best Iron Maiden song of all time:

Number 10
“Como Estais Amigos”

Iron Maiden's Virtual XI

Virtual XI (1998)

Just kidding. In fact, this may be the worst Iron Maiden song ever written. Not only does it feature Blaze Bayley, their third lead singer who sang on two albums (their two worst albums ever, due in large part to Blaze), but, of interest to linguistas like us, where are the accent marks?! There should be two in the title (not to mention the two question marks that are missing). Just terrible.

The real top ten will start tomorrow after I’ve had a chance to listen to the new album. Still can’t wait!

If you’re curious about today’s word, you should head to the entry for helea, which means “to cry”, and the entry for ape, which explains how one gets count nouns from mass nouns. As for the sentence, it comes from the utterly silly chorus of “Como Estais Amigos” (which I don’t recommend you listen to by clicking here).


• Monday, August 16th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'eine'.


  • (n.) woman
  • (n.) wife
  • (adj.) female


  • (suf.) feminine suffix

A male li Eine Lila i ia!
“Iron Maiden’s gonna get you!”

Notes: Hey, it’s August 16th! Know what that means? Legendary heavy metal band Iron Maiden’s new album The Final Frontier is out! :D In honor of this, their fifteenth studio album, I’m going to count down my personal top ten Iron Maiden songs on the Kamakawi Word of the Day blog.

I understand that most, if not all, of those of you who read this blog don’t listen to metal at all, and may have never heard a single Iron Maiden song. I also know, though, that many (again, if not most) of you are fans of fantasy and science-fiction. What I shall try to argue over the coming days is that heavy metal is intended to be listened to in a way that’s fundamentally different from other forms of music, and, furthermore, that the following analogy holds:

other music : heavy metal :: other literature : science-fiction/fantasy

The countdown will start tomorrow (I need to get the new album and see if I need to readjust my top ten). In the meantime, you can check out this Wikipedia article on their recent documentary. It’s pretty cool. They filmed this particular tour because they were doing shows in a bunch of places they’d never been before for logistics reasons. What made it work this time is that their lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, chartered his own plane and flew the band around from place to place.

I’ve called this iku an ikunoala, even though you can’t quite see the ne in it. I really like the way this one turned out, but I think I got confused when designing it. At the time, I think I saw the lower stick going the opposite direction… That would’ve made the ne more recognizable.

This iku doubles as the feminine suffix. The feminine suffix has a very limited distribution. It enjoys some use here and there with family terms, and I think with chickens… I must be tired. To sleep! Big day of translating and Iron Maiden-listening tomorrow.


• Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'ileya'.


  • (n.) precious stone, gem

Ai meliki ileya ai!
“What a gorgeous stone!”

Notes: I got back late tonight because I was over at my cousin’s watching Snatch. It’s a favorite amongst my friends and I, but in addition, I’ve recently come to know the film’s dialogue coach, Brendan Gunn. He’s currently working as a dialogue coach for Game of Thrones. In Snatch, he helped Brad Pitt master his truly unique and utterly mystifying accent. It’s a good film! Violent, but good.

Oh, right, the word of the day… One of the main plot points in the film revolves around this 84 carat diamond. There’s no word for “diamond” in Kamakawi (likely it’ll be borrowed from Zhyler), but there is one for any kind of precious stone. And here it is!

Something new’s coming tomorrow. Hooray for new things! :D


• Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'ele'.


  • (v.) to be blue
  • (adj.) blue
  • (n.) sky

Au ele kamutililipi…
“Violets are blue…”

Notes: You know what they say: Better late than early or on time! YEEEEEEEEEE HAAAAAAAA! :D

I decided to do another color term while I sat and collected my thoughts. This one derives from the word for “sky”. The iku (designed for the meaning “sky”) is a star with the “ground” determinative beneath it. The sky, then, is the land of the stars.

Darn, I haven’t done “star” yet… So many words, so little patience! Or is it drive…?

Hey, it’s Saturday, man! It’s a good day. Time to do some laundry. Woo hoo! :D


• Friday, August 13th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'lake'.


  • (v.) to be black
  • (adj.) black
  • (adj.) obsidian
  • (n.) obsidian

A Keli ie kanekoi lake oi’i.
“Keli is my little black cat.”


Today is a very special caturday, because it’s Friday the 13th: The unofficial celebration of black cats everywhere that I just invented! :D Little black kitties like Keli, seen below guarding me from the arm of the couch, are well deserving of praise:

Keli on the couch.

Currently Keli is mulling about downstairs, sniffing what there is to be sniffed, and chasing what there is to be chased. Will do my best to ensure that she has a happy Black Kitty Day.

As you can guess by the definitions, the word for “black” derives from the word for “obsidian”. Obsidian’s pretty black, and it’s rather volcano-y, so it seemed like a nice, logical place to derive a word for “black” from.

The iku is a pretty straightforward combination of la and ke. It’s like a spear with a hook on the end of it. A hook for catching salmon… I should give Keli a treat the next time I see her. She’s earned it. :)


• Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'mawata'.


  • (v.) to be blind
  • (adj.) blind
  • (n.) blindness
  • (n.) blind person

Ai mawata ia ai…?
“Don’t tell me you’re too blind to see…”

Notes: Hooray! :D It’s over! Truth be told, by now even I’m tired of “Never Gonna Give You Up”.

Not the song, of course; I’ll never get tired of that. I’m just tired of talking about it.

But hey, let’s talk about this song! So the last two lines (in English) are: “And if you ask me how I’m feeling / Don’t tell me you’re too blind to see.” How on Earth does that make any kind of sense?! He says if you ask me x, don’t tell me y. Listen, Rick, honey: I don’t know what planet you from, but asking is different from telling, and x is different from y. If I ask you “How’s it going?” I’m not telling you “I’m too blind to see.”

There seems to be some sort of implication here that if one asks how he’s feeling, one is being foolish, for one already knows the answer. I’m not so sure that’s true. If we all knew how you were feeling, you wouldn’t have “written” this song. Furthermore, “Never gonna give you up / Never gonna let you down”, et al, is not a feeling. That’s something you say to someone you’re already in a relationship with—something you do. By all accounts, you’re not even in a relationship with this girl whom you’ve known for so long.

And that’s another thing. If y’all known each other so long and you still ain’t together, just what makes you think this song is going to make the difference? I mean, look at what you’re saying! One of your arguments for getting into a relationship is, essentially, if she goes out with you, you won’t break up with her. Wow! You the Rock of Gibraltar, buddy. And once she sees you dance, she’d be out of her mind not to start running the other way.

All in all, I’ve got to be honest: I don’t see this relationship going anywhere.

Even so, it’s an enjoyable, danceable song, I’ll give you that. So for one last time, let us all—each and every one of us—indulge in some fine, internet-grade rick-rollage, courtesy of Rick Astley and that wacko nut job Bill O’Reilly. Enjoy!

And, for those who want to see the whole tamal, here it is:

“Oku Male Li Ei”
“Never Gonna Give You Up”

Oku keili eya ie eli,
We’re no strangers to love,
Fe’a’u favatu ti ia oi’i,
You know the rules and so do I,
I nevinevi fulele ei,
A full commitment’s what I’m thinking of,
Oku hea i iko ti ho’o ika,
You wouldn’t get this from any other guy,
Ae male kala i ia poiu,
I just want to tell you how I’m feeling,
A toko eli ti’i ima,
Gotta make you understand.


Oku male li ei, i ia e fili po,
Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down,
Oku male u’upile i ia,
Never gonna run around and desert you.
Oku male li ei, i ia e heleale,
Never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye,
Oku male itule ei i ia.
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.

Kau nai eya i ikaika,
We’ve known each other for so long,
Itu ia io oku male kala,
Your heart is aching but you’re too shy to say it,
Nai eya i ae o hu’u o eya,
Inside we both know what’s been going on,
U nai ie iveyo u male feyo,
We know the game and we’re gonna play it,
Avi ulaya ia ti “Ai ia…?,”
And if you ask me how I’m feeling,
Ai mawata ia ai…?
Don’t tell me you’re too blind to see.


(And then more choruses and other parts of the lyrics above.)